Let’s be honest, we all like an easy life! So, it follows that lawyers will make their CCLs an easy read for their clients, doesn’t it? Well, actually, no. Many clients find the CCL they receive far from easy to engage with, according to research published in November 2016: Research into Client Care Letters: qualitative research report (available via CILEx Regulation).
We have become familiar with communicating by sparsely worded texts and gathering information through infographics. Consequently, clients are ill-equipped to navigate a CCL resembling a chapter from War and Peace.
The research provides eight key principles to follow when preparing a CCL. The principles have been built taking account of the EAST framework developed by the behavioural insight team. The framework describes four general principles that should be used to encourage engagement: make it Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely. (EAST: Four simple ways to apply behavioural insights, available at Behavioural Insights.)
In this article, we look at principles 6, 7 and 8.
Simplify navigation through your CCL by making key information straightforward to pick out. Achieve this by:
A CCL that gives the initial impression of being easy to read is vital to getting your client’s engagement with the content. Aim to:
Use a font size of at least 12. This is more inviting to read. Individuals with visual impairments find a small font size a fundamental barrier.
Prepare short paragraphs. Dense text is often skim-read, or ignored, leading to vital details being missed.
Separate out content. Breaking down information makes it more visually appealing, less daunting and easier to manage. There are various ways to do this, including:
Steps in your divorce proceedings:
- Divorce petition is prepared
- Divorce petition is sent to the court
- Divorce petition is sent to your spouse by the court
- Your spouse sends a form to the court to confirm they have had the divorce petition
- The judge looks at the petition and awards a Decree Nisi
- Six weeks later, Decree Absolute is applied for from the court
Consider alternative ways to provide information which clients view as less relevant at the beginning of a case, such as terms of business and details of your complaints procedure. While you cannot make clients read these details, it is essential that they are aware they are available, particularly because much of this information is a regulatory requirement. Clients’ interaction can be improved by:
Separating out information. Remove generic information from the CCL by providing it in leaflets and signposting to the leaflet in the CCL. Avoid the dangers leading from your client discarding the leaflet by emailing a copy later.
Sending reminders. Clients are more receptive to certain information as the case progresses. Details such as your complaints process may be more relevant once the case is underway and, particularly, closer to completion when clients are more aware of the service they have received.